The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feedback: How Much Is Too Much?

Matty and I had a great night Tuesday. First we traversed the tornado-filled skies (I exaggerative... sort of) to hit GR's Baker Book House for a Q & A with a writer's guild. This wonderful group of ladies founded the Breath Christian Writer's Conference and were sharing a bit about their collective and individual journeys.

It really got Matt and I thinking.

1. Are there any guys writing anymore??? I mean, writing anything other than thrillers... I can't seem to find any.... sorry, where was I?

Oh, right.

The question of feedback came up. How many people do you share your work with? What's your critique process? How do you handle feedback? Is there such a thing as too much feedback?

So in the spirit of that last question, Matt and I have decided to "go off the grid," if you will, with our two projects that are closest to completion: The Sons of The Moon (a collaborative work of fantasy fiction) and Disciple 6 (Matt's comic book.) We both sort of felt that enough eyes have seen the behind-the-scenes of our projects; enough kind and constructive notes had been given; enough opinion had been thrown into the mix. It was time to pull back and lock in on our vision. And, you know, leave them wanting more. :D

Does this mean I'm through talking about The Sons of The Moon? Not a chance. It's just that the versions and excerpts and things that have bounced around the internet for a while will be cleaned up and done away with. We will be a seeking a COUPLE of beta readers for The Sons of The Moon come October, but until then the tasty peaks will come to an end.

There's a couple reasons for this:

1. The Sons of The Moon is on its fifth and final draft. It's been read by more than 20 readers at various stages of gestation. It's been queried and submitted twice to more than 30 agents. It's been read enough. Its been commented on enough. The feedback has been invaluable, but we've gotten to the point where its like "what can be left to say?" If we don't have a handle on this story yet, this story is doomed. We've got a handle on this story.

2. Too much second-guessing can really stall a project and leave it stale. I've seen this in my own work. When I was too focused on what a critique reader had to say or how to shift each and every suggestion or idea into some working part of the story, the writing was all over the place. It didn't flow - it was disjointed. Because I was seeing it through 10 sets of eyes instead of just mine (and Matt's.) I still think feedback is great. We will still have probably two different editors handling the final version of the manuscript before publication. But they will be professionals and their job will be to polish, not to impart those "readerly" opinions we've come to know and love (and loathe, at times...)

So what do you say, humble readers? What's your process for feedback and critiques? Do you share a lot while working on a project, or do you keep it closely guarded till its ready to see the light of day?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inspirations Week Day 3: The Movies [part 1]

So inspiration week is turning into the longest week on record. I began with good intentions on Monday, April 11 with a post about indie author rockstars Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking. "Day 2" was actually a date late, on Wednesday the 13th. In it I gushed about my huge man-crush on writer/director Kevin Smith. Today on this "Day 3", a solid 11 days since this alleged "week" began, I have again found time to post on another one of my inspirations: The Movies.

Now I was going to focus on one or two filmmakers whose work has impacted me the most, but I honestly couldn't narrow it down. Those of you who know me can testify to the veritable Blockbuster my wife and have in our living room (cue 10-year-old asking "Mommy, what's a Blockbuster???") We love movies. Love love love movies. So how could I talk about only one flick or only one director when there's such a large well of cinema from which to drink?

So we shall drink deep, my friends, and toast to good movie-watching health, as I highlight a few directors and films from a list of many. Some you'll agree with. Some might make you question my movie-loving credibility (I really will watch and love pretty much anything.) Oh, and I left Smith off this list here because the dude got his own damn post! So hopefully he won't take offense to this (when he surely reads it later. Trust me. He'll read it....)

So without further delay...


1. Christopher Nolan
Favorite film: Memento

The list of reasons I love Nolan could fill about 20 posts, so I will keep it short and sweet. The guy is original. He wraps a story tighter than any director I've ever seen. He has a great eye for detail. And he's a guy with a totally independent heart working completely within the studio system. I know its "cool" to be indie guy, and I get it. But this dude is in Hollywood and making his own rules. Hollywood needs more cats like Nolan. His first film, Following, is brilliant, The Prestige was a wonderfully taut flick, and of course, there's Inception. What can be said about Inception that hasn't already been said? It's an amazing piece of cinema. The fact that Nolan wrote the script, juggled that ensemble cast, nailed all those special effects shots (most of which done with CGI), and didn't get Best Director award is kind of insane to me. But then again, I didn't see The King's Speech. Neither did 80% of the country. :D But anyway, for my money, Memento will always be my favorite Nolan film. It really is stunning how the narrative is wound together so well while told in such a bizarre, reverse-linear fashion. Not to mention Guy Pearce gives a hell of a performance.

Oh, and Nolan also made those tiny little Batman flicks all the kids are talking about. I think they did pretty well in the box office.... just maybe....

2. Fight Club
Directed by: David Fincher (based of the novel by Chuck Palahniuk)

I switch over to the film for #2 here. I have nothing against Fincher, but I am not in love with him enough to include his entire cannon here in my list of inspirations. His Fight Club is what takes the cake for me. This film changed me as an artist. Seriously. I will never again write a film without thinking of how I can make it more like Fight Club. It taught me so much about the unreliable or false narrator (Memento as well) and its a character trope I always love exploring. The screenplay I'm writing right now for my short film Dreaming Jack Gray wouldn't exist without Fight Club. I give Palahniuk the props for infusing the film with such memorable bits of narrative and dialog and giving it its tone and message, but its Fincher that brought it to life for me. I actually couldn't finish the book. I really wanted to, but I have a big problem with the first-person perspective anyway and to have the narrator of a book so limited in their scope was distracting. On film I think the story worked much better, and I won't say that often.

3. Terry Gilliam
Favorite film: 12 Monkeys

I haven't seen all of Gilliam's work. I'm sort of new to my love for him. But what I have seen I find completely compelling. Gilliam is my favorite kind of director: one who let's his enormous imagination run wild on the screen. His films know no limit (both in scope and in budget, which admittedly makes him hard on studios.) From The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to Time Bandits; from Fear and Loathing to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus, Gilliam has taken me to worlds beyond my wildest dreams. And I have pretty wild dreams. Always exciting, always different, always quirky, Gilliam is a man who seems to want nothing more than to make you remember what its like to love imagination - like a kid, back when anything was possible and adventure and intrigue were ours to obtain.

12 Monkeys, a much more serious film tonally than some of his other works, stands as my favorite of his. Its a mind-bender of a sci-fi flick featuring great performances by Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Its a film I can watch again and again, never to grow sick of it and always finding something new. There are a few Gilliam films I have yet to tackle (The Fisher King is sitting on my DVD shelf right now) and I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Plus, how can you dislike the guy behind that other Grail movie. Total comedy classic!

So there's the first 3! I will discuss my last 4 choices in a later post. For now I leave you with the most inspiring film I've seen in a long time: My son Carter taking his first steps!

Until next time...


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Look Who Has a Twitter Account...

I've put it off this long, but the day has finally come. Now you can follow and tweet at me, and retweet with me and whatnot. I will have to learn the vernacular. Some weird, questionable things go on around the Twitters, that's all I know...

Anyways, I can now officially say "check me out on Twitter."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inspirations Week Day 2: Kevin Smith

*disclaimer: Kevin Smith is a man who does not care if you are at work, so clicking on some of these links may lead you to sites you might not want your boss to see you on. It's not nakey-time or anything. It's just... let's say... Smith doesn't care about offending you. Or your boss.

Yes, I am in fact inspired by a guy who wrote and directed a movie called Zack and Miri Make a Porno; a man known for raunchy jokes and his superfluous use of the F word; a man who is "too fat to fly." But underneath all this stuff, and beyond what all the critics or haters love to shout about him, Kevin Smith is a man devoted to his craft, to story-telling, to his family, and to giving back.

I don't remember when Smith first caught my attention - it's kind of like he's always been there - but I can pin-point certain mile-markers, if you will, on the road that led to my slight obsession with everything he talks about. And for a man synonymous with a character named "Silent Bob," Kevin Smith has a LOT to talk about.

I really enjoy all of Smith's movies on some level or another (yes, I'm one of 8 people that didn't mind Jersey Girl.) But its his 1999 film Dogma that gets the most re-watches in the Haney household. I don't know if its simply the laughs, or the underlining message, or Alan Rickman as a super-angel, or all of the above. This film has shaped my thinking. One thing that gets lost in the raunchy nature of Kevin Smith is that he actually has a pretty strong faith in God. I struggle sometimes with his conflicting stances on a few things, but he does not hide the fact that grew up a very devout Catholic, that his faith shaped his world view, that his daughter is baptized, and that he is a believer in God. Dogma is really the only film that gives us that side of Smith, and it's a side I like. What he says throughout the movie about what faith and religion mean is pretty interesting. How I, as a fellow believer, grapple with the two sides of Smith is also an interesting exercise. Can a guy this vulgar outwardly really be Godly at heart? And who am I to judge it? What's my stance as a believer? I'm by no means saying Smith is a model Christian, but I don't know... maybe I'm reading into it. Maybe with Kevin Smith, what you see if what you get. But, like I said, its interesting to ponder. And I'd love to pick his brain about how he views his dichotomy.

Either way, Dogma is a great flick with a stellar cast, and definitely worthy of repeat viewings.

I dove deeper into Smith's head when I burrowed his first book, Silent Bob Speaks, from my brother-from-another-mother Keenan. This book is basically an all-access pass to the director's life - including all the interesting film stuff (on the set of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl) as well as the gross and awkwardly funny personal stuff (sex with his wife, bowel movements) that you sometimes can't believe someone would actually talk about in a public forum. I'll let Alan Moores of Booklist sum it up better than I can:

"Smith, director of the indie hit movie Clerks as well as Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, gathers here more than two-dozen columns he has written for the Left-leaning British political-cultural magazine arena. These pieces, however, are to columns what most sweatpants are to dress slacks: far more casual and a lot dirtier. His rants and raves are all over the place: Britney Spears, masturbation, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, lap dances, Spider-Man, the author's "morbid obesity," a nude painting of Smith's wife, and interviews with Ben Affleck and Tom Cruise, among others. Through the mess, we see Smith's appealing fidelity to his craft and to his family within an industry that tears at both. There are surprisingly candid insights into how a director prepares for a film, especially the delicate politics of casting. And, as shamelessly fawning as he is, Smith inspires wonderful conversation from Affleck and Cruise, both of whom seem to reflect genuine appreciation for Smith's work."

So yea, that about says it all. Why I admire Smith so much is right here in this book. He's blunt as all hell, incredibly loyal to his friends and family, and always able to make me laugh. This book is SURELY not for everyone (just as Smith's movies aren't for everyone,) and it really helps to have a handle on some of his films first (just so you know what you're getting yourself into.) But for a Smith fan looking for an easy comedy read, it's a good one to check out.

And for someone looking to REALLY hear Silent Bob Speak, check out, where Smith and a host of friends (wife Jennifer, Jason Mewes aka Jay, Scott Mosier) appear in a variety of pod cast programing and talk incessantly on various topics available. I'm currently really loving Smodcast, the O.G. of the group, and Smoviemakers, where Smith has so far interviewed filmmakers Edgar Wright and Richard Kelly, two cool cats who would probably make a longer list of my influences... top 20 I'm sure.

Not too long ago (so recently, in fact, that it doesn't yet have its own website) Smith co-founded a foundation that deals with putting an end to human sex trafficking. As stated on their page at View Askew Productions:

The Wayne Foundation's vision is for a world without child slavery. Our mission is to provide young women who have fallen victim to commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking with a means of leaving the sex industry for good. The Wayne Foundation is committed to fighting human trafficking, child prostitution, & child sex exploitation one victim at a time by providing individuals with a safe home environment that will empower them with the tools they will need to stop the cycle of abuse. It is our intent to end commercial sex exploitation within the United States through direct victim assistance, public outreach, and by directly working with those who shape the policies and statutes which impact victims and their abusers.

We believe that all victims can be rehabilitated through a program that provides education assistance, mental and physical health services, housing, and a support staff who are dedicated to assisting these girls reach their full potential. It is our objective to aid these young women until they are capable of reentering society on their own as happy and healthy adults.

Co-founded by a survivor of child prostitution, Jamie Walton, The Wayne Foundation's first big objective is to set up safe houses for the young victims of sex trafficking. They are currently taking donations, and I highly encourage you to donate. If you're someone fickle like me and you want something for money (you know, besides that warm feeling that comes from doing what is right and good) I suggest checking out this little site right here, where you can download (for a donation of at least $.90) a wonderfully insightful live interview Smith conducted with two pimp-tastic peoples: rock star author Neil Gaiman and his rock star art-chick wife Amanda F***ing Palmer. You can then also download Chapter 2: Amanda playing some of her awesome and out-there theatrical indie rock, and Chapter 3: in which Neil reads some of his work (if you haven't heard Neil read, you really haven't lived.) (That's what we call hyperbole. But still, it's pretty sweet.)

You can also download an interview with Jamie to learn more about her harrowing tale. It really is terrifying some of the things this woman went through, yet amazing how strong her heart and spirit have remained. She really wants to give back; to get help for those still trapped. Because, honestly, most people who live through a nightmare such as this do not end up as blessed and as balanced as Jamie.

To check out The Wayne Foundation and to donate straight up (without downloading reading and rocking) simply click here.

See, Mom, this post wasn't ALL raunchy. Kevin Smith really is a good dude!

Until next time,


Monday, April 11, 2011

Inspirations Week Day 1: Konrath & Hocking

Now before those of you in the authorial "know" roll your eyes and think "oh great, another post blindly praising the supposed God-like awesomeness of indie authors J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking" let me preface this post with a fact.

I always wanted to indie publish.

In the back of my mind, even 10, 12 years ago when I wrote my first screenplay, my goal was never to "be published" or "sell my script." It was to "tell stories." I didn't rush off to film school, or go get an degree in English. I just kept writing and hoped someday, through some hard work, someone would like my stories enough to pay for them - not, that is to say, think they were marketable enough to take a business risk on them. See the distinction? I wasn't writing for suits, I was writing for fans. I wrote music for fans. I crafted screenplays for fans. And I wanted to always do that.

Why? Because I'm a fan. A huge fan, and not even a very discerning one. I just like to be entertained. And I love stories. And I wanted to share in that experience by telling my own.

But back only a few years ago, if you wanted any real chance of telling these stories, you had to work within the system. And that meant publishers. That meant producers. That meant gatekeepers - it meant someone else's opinion determining if your idea saw the light of day. And on top of this power, they then take the bulk of your money and decide how to market your idea and decide who gets film rights or audio rights or foreign rights, and then they take that money, too, and...

It was almost too much for me to swallow. Still I wanted to tell my story. So 4 years ago or so when Matt and I started brainstorming The Sons of The Moon and decided to really go for this, I knew I would have to learn about the system. So I did a lot of research, spent a lot of time on agent websites and reading blogs and driving myself nuts with all the rules and regulations. Think about it. The system wants us to pour everything we have into a manuscript they can bank on... but they only want to see a one-page query or the first chapter. So then we pour everything into that first chapter or that query. If it works, we land that agent! But then the agent needs to convince the editor who needs to convince the publisher who needs to convince the people holding the purse strings. All. Based. On. Opinion.

I don't want opinion. I want fans. Fans with their own opinions. Love my story. Hate my story. All I know is I wanted to share it.

And I'm selfish! I want control. These are my children, and I'm not selling them to someone else. So yes, the idea of going it alone appealed to me. But I ran the gamut. I sent the queries. I sent probably 70 queries in two separate stages looking for representation for The Sons of The Moon. But after all the research and stressing and everything, I still had no CLUE what I was doing. Not really. Because there's no feedback in the query system (that's a whole 'nother post right there...).

So I was getting frustrated. That's about the time I stumbled on Konrath's blog. It has been a beacon of light ever since. Its serious, practical, no-fluff knowledge about how to successfully do this indie publishing thing. Yes, he's been published before. Yes, he has a huge backlog which is key to making good money of self-pub (more products = more sales). But he never once denies that, and he never fills anyone up with the idea that we will all be millionaires if only we sit down and write that novel! Still, it's his past as a legacy (traditional pub) author and that he has a "platform" because of it that left him, unfairly of course, open for attacks from traditional pub supporters; there were supposed chinks in the armor, if you will.

Enter Amanda Hocking.

Amanda's 26 years old and has only self-published. No. Traditional. Pub. Background. She took her stories to Amazon and brought them to the people. And the people are buying it up. If you'd like to learn more about Amanda's story (it's quite astonishing), her blog's FAQ and this post in particular answer a lot of questions. I won't regurgitate it here, but I will mention a few significant points. Amanda has made a huge chunk of money (over a million dollars.) The rights to her Trylle Trilogy have been optioned by the writer of District 9. And, in a move some indie supporters might question, she has just signed a 7-figure publishing deal with St. Martin Press.

These two pioneering individuals really inspire me - not to jump off some crazy cliff where I know not what sort of rusted spikes wait for me at the bottom, but to try and do what I always wanted to do. Yes, to me, Konrath's got the right idea: it's your story. If you can make the bulk of the money by doing it alone, you should be doing that. YOU put the bulk of the work in; don't you want to get paid for your work? He's quick to remind us of an important fact: a legacy deal isn't a golden ticket. People are dropped from publishers ALL THE TIME. A writer waits their whole life to be published and if it doesn't go the way the investors wanted, more times than not - especially in this publishing and economic environment - the author is left in the dust. So why not try to go indie? If you fail, its on your own merits. It's not someone else dropping the ball. Unlike my failed foray into querying, all of which led to questions I couldn't answer, if I fail at self-pub, I only have my OWN methods to examine and learn from, not someone else's tastes. And guess what? I can always try again. There's no looming time-line for my improvement.

The fact that Amanda has now signed a pub deal doesn't discourage me in the self-publishing process, it encourages me! I've always thought it should be this way - publishers come after a writer who has proven themselves not by a query, but by SALES! That's what they want anyway, sales.

So before I ramble on even longer, let me just say thank you to the two names above, as well as other authors I've befriended and learned from (shout out to Joseph Robert Lewis.) I don't know if you'll ever read this, but I extend my gratitude nonetheless. Keep writing wonderful stories and paving those paths for the rest of us dreamers.

Tomorrow I'll discuss another man whose paved his own way and really gives me something to aspire to, both as a storyteller and a filmmaker. Join me tomorrow, and thanks for giving this post a read.


Friday, April 8, 2011

New Look, New Direction

Howdy Inter-webs!

So yea, it's been a while since I've posted. By a while, I mean months and months and months. But that's all going to change! (I know you're excited, try to contain yourselves.)

Basically, I realize that I need to get more involved in this blogosphere, by reconnecting with my peeps on the blog. Why do this, you ask? For completely selfish gain, of course! Why do anything?

So with that in mind, I'm proud to announce that Matt and I will be self-releasing The Sons of The Moon on December 1st, 2011! The entire rest of the year is mapped out in preparations for the release and one of those goals is to engage our friends and audience more through social networking. (Yes, that means I'll be swallowing my disdain and opening a Twitter account...)

Don't worry though, I'm really not a big fan of talking on and on about my self. (Really, I swear it!) So this blog will still have Michelle posting updates about our family life (I will speak of it as well) and some other non-writer weekly segments (music crap - my other passion.) And I'll write ON writing and inspiration and all that good stuff, not just talking incessantly about the release of the novel.

We don't have a big readership here on Creating Life (yet) but we're looking to increase it. So if you wanna guest blog about a topic or pimp your work or whatever the case may be, consider this an open invitation. We're looking to bring traffic this way and to give a shout out to cool ideas and works floating around in cyberspace. So if you're interested or have any questions, get a hold of me by clicking the CONTACT tab at the top of the page.

We will kick off things next week with 5 days of posts about the people who inspire me. (I lovingly call it Standing On The Shoulders of Giants week.) Mon-Fri will bring a new inspiration and how they came to influence my work. Maybe I'll get Michelle to post about a few of hers, too.

So we will see you all back here Monday when we kick things off! Spread the word about the blog and the release and I hope to be interacting with many of you soon.

Take care!